I’ve read a few spy related books recently and thought I’d offer a quick round up of some recent releases.
The Bayern Agenda – Dan Moren
I’ve always thought that spies and scifi can be a good fit. By setting your book in the far future you can play with some of the spy tropes without being hamstrung by the current or past political reality. However, beyond some books of Timothy Zahn, spy games are not a subject that scifi writers have embraced. Dan Moren seems interested in changing that. His latest is a loose sequel to his first novel, The Caldonian Gambit, shifting it’s focus from a pilot in over his head to a grizzled spy who has spent years advancing the cause of his political masters.
The book benefits from being able to create it’s own universe. While the world building allows for two superpowers that mimic the US/USSR Cold War, Moren can offer some nuance and enjoy creating scifi problems for his spies to overcome.
I wouldn’t say it’s like a John le Carré novel, this book has too much action and plot for that. Instead it shows respect for the spy and thriller genre. Going undercover, secret identities, fancy parties, and double agents are all make an appearance at some point in the story. As the everyday world seems more like science fiction and worries of governments or corporations spying have become an everyday conversation, it’s refreshing to take a trip to spying concerns of the far future.
The Bayern Agenda exchanges the trench coats and fedoras for spaceships and lasers; it’s an even trade as far as I’m concerned. I can’t wait to see the sequel.
The Paris Agenda – Chris Pavone
Chris Pavone continues to build out his spy world in his latest, The Paris Diversion. We return to check in on the lead from his first book and breakout hit, The Expats. Kate went through the ringer after discovering that her husband had been taking part in a shady plan to steal millions out from under the noses of criminals. When the plan backfired Kate had to reveal her past as a CIA officer. Her family has relocated and restarted in a new city but a change of location isn’t enough to keep the past from following her over the course of one very long Parisian day.
Although it stands alone, having read Pavone’s previous novels will give some important context to some of the characters mentioned. He’s created his own spy world and, while the last book was weaker than his previous two, he is back to form with this book. By following a variety of characters, Pavone is able to explore the various ways past decisions can affect you family and the change having a family makes on your decisions. By confining the action to one day he also creates a tight story with little to no flabbiness. If you’re interested in a fast moving story that also manages to bring the inner lives of it’s characters to life, pick up The Paris Diversion.
Mac B., Kid Spy Book 2 – Mac Barnett
I previously looked at Mac Barnett’s first book in the series Mac B., Kid Spy and quite enjoyed it. Barnett has fun playing with the narrative and his books are quite amusing. This sequel is no exception as he tells a “true” story from his childhood when he worked as a spy for the Queen of England.
We follow the young lad as he attempts to prevent the theft of the Crown Jewels. Barnett has a knack for channeling the mindset of a kid and finding quirky humor in absurd moments. His portrayal of the relationship between Mac B and the Queen is especially fun. He also drops various real facts into the story that are fun in there randomness.
Mike Lowery’s illustrations have an exaggerated cartoony look while also being accurate to the various foreign locales that Her Majesty’s youngest spy visits and my kids enjoyed them.
Based on the first two books I’ll be making it my mission to pick up the third book in the series in September.